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View Full Version : Custom uke owners, when did you decide to buy a custom uke?



Andu
10-21-2014, 12:54 PM
At what point did you decide a custom uke was for you? Was it after owning a "K" uke? Was it your first uke?? Also, how did you choose your luthier when there many amazing ones to choose from?

Currently I don't own a "K" uke or a custom uke (best uke i own is a pono pro classic). I've tried many "K" ukes at the local shop and I would love to own one, but I also see myself wanting a custom uke more and more. Hoping some of your comments will help me decide my next purchase :)

gyosh
10-21-2014, 01:06 PM
Mine was a 50th b-day present to myself. I've never bought myself anything that expensive in something I have so little skill.

What really sold me on the idea was taking Rick's build class. I knew I wanted something special built by this man. He's a living legend!

sukie
10-21-2014, 01:27 PM
At the time I owned a KoAloha concert. It was lovely. But.....then I became acquainted with Chuck Moore's work. Holy cow!! I fell in love. Hard. The rest is history. I have had my ukulele for 4 years now. I was very lucky to get one before the "list to get on the list" started. :-)

janeray1940
10-21-2014, 01:43 PM
I bought a custom uke when what I wanted at the time (soprano with more than 16 frets) didn't exist off the shelf. Then I fell in love with another uke (Kamaka Ohta-San) and - well, my wants/needs changed. My experience with customs is fairly limited, but as the owner of several Kamakas, if you would "love" to own a "K" uke I'd highly recommend going that route. I'm a big fan of "try before you buy" - with a custom, you just never really know what you're getting - or in my case, even if you really want what you *think* you want! And, with some exceptions (Moore Bettah comes to mind), K brands hold their value a lot better than customs, should you change your mind and want to re-home it.

wickedwahine11
10-21-2014, 01:45 PM
I have been fortunate enough to have a number of very nice ukuleles. Some of them were stunningly beautiful, others sounded amazing. But I didn't have any one ukulele that was a perfect union of both sound and beauty. So for about five years I desperately wanted a Moore Bettah. I was lucky enough to get one, and it is the perfect ukulele for me. I love that it was made just for me -- by the hands of one incredible luthier and artist. I adore the way it sounds, love the way it feels (it is easier to play and more comfortable than any other uke I have ever played) and nobody else in the world has one that looks like mine. I haven't touched another ukulele since the day I got it and it is my most prized possession in the world. (I would have said my cat is my most prized possession, but let's be honest, he owns me not the other way around). :)

mm stan
10-21-2014, 01:55 PM
For many the biggest obstacle is budget... get the best you can possibly afford... I consider K brands premimum ukes...pretty good off the rack but not made personally for you
of course an upgrade is a custom...you most times get what you want... in sound, comfort and looks... Like Stacy said, Chuck moore is probally the best custom builder in the world now
and is highly sought after.. I treasure playing and owning mine as I am so fortunate... he builds on a limited basis and does all the fine work by himself... so certainly it is not easy
getting one. Good Luck in whatever you choose to get, happy strummings
PS if possible play the uke before you buy one and see if you like it in the tone, comfort and playability.. off the rack ukes has one good thing, you can play them all and choose the best one for your liking...

Kamanaaloha
10-21-2014, 02:45 PM
I value what you say mm Stan...why not a DeVine?

hollisdwyer
10-21-2014, 03:13 PM
Although all my current ukes are 'custom', only one was commissioned by me. I decided to buy that one after I had sold a National Resophonic guitar for enough to fund my new BP ML Tenor.

mariegan7
10-21-2014, 03:32 PM
If you are a beginning player I do not suggest ordering a custom until you have been playing at least at a year so that you know what you like in an ukulele. Customs cost a lot of $ especially if you get into the larger sizes. Starting with a Pono is a good choice as it is a reasonably priced well made uke. I don't know what part of California you live in but it would be a good idea to talk/visit some local ukulele makers. John Kinnard is a great builder he is in the So. Cal area. Tony Graziano, Da Silva and Pohaku are in the No. Cal area.

1300cc
10-21-2014, 04:04 PM
If you are a beginning player I do not suggest ordering a custom until you have been playing at least at a year so that you know what you like in an ukulele. Customs cost a lot of $ especially if you get into the larger sizes. Starting with a Pono is a good choice as it is a reasonably priced well made uke. I don't know what part of California you live in but it would be a good idea to talk/visit some local ukulele makers. John Kinnard is a great builder he is in the So. Cal area. Tony Graziano, Da Silva and Pohaku are in the No. Cal area.i started playing ukulele when i was 54 yr old, this just a hobby, and i said to myself i wont buy an expensive uke unless i am a professional player, now i still considered myself as a beginner and i have bought 7 ukes, and one them worth $1000.

DownUpDave
10-21-2014, 04:42 PM
I am 57 years old and have only been playing for 6 months so I am not good enough to deserve one but...........I have passion enough to have one. I actually own a Pete Howlett koa tenor bought used off the marketplace. This was after playing for only 2 months and I knew I had found a lifetime affair with the ukulele. That uke opened my eyes to a light responsive build with beautiful koa. Buying used is a great way to start out. Excellent deals from solid established members right here.

I have two other customs on order. One maker I was able to play a couple of his instruments and the second I am going on reputation and great feedback from owners right here on UU!!!

equina
10-21-2014, 05:14 PM
At what point did you decide a custom uke was for you? Was it after owning a "K" uke? Was it your first uke?? Also, how did you choose your luthier when there many amazing ones to choose from?

I commissioned customs because I could not get what I want from production ukes. Reason is the same as janeray. I chose the luthiers based on their designs as listed on their websites, their customers' feedback, their instruments sound based youtube videos and soundcloud audio, their helpfulness in answering my questions and, of course, my budget.


Currently I don't own a "K" uke or a custom uke (best uke i own is a pono pro classic). I've tried many "K" ukes at the local shop and I would love to own one, but I also see myself wanting a custom uke more and more. Hoping some of your comments will help me decide my next purchase :)

Before you commission your first uke, play as many ukes as possible. The purpose is for you to find out what kind of tone you like, and what are the features of the uke that enhances your playing experience. For example, some like deep tones and others like bright tones, some like clear tones and others like warm tones. Some like thick necks and others like slim necks, some like flat fretboards and others like radiused fretboards, some like narrow fretboards and others like wide fretboards, some like 4-strings and others like 5-, 6-, and 8-strings, etc.

With custom ukes, the uke is tailored to fit you, in terms of sound, playability and looks, but with production ukes, you have to make do with whatever that is already made, and there are many players who do find that well-constructed production ukes already meet all their needs and wants.

kohanmike
10-21-2014, 07:21 PM
Within six months of playing a uke, I went for a custom. At the time the most money I spent was for a Kala cedar top tenor cutaway, $360 (I traded in 3 lesser ukes, so it actually cost $190). Then I saw Daniel's (nongdam) Selmer Maccaferri gypsy jazz style uke, which I always admired as a guitar, but wasn't ready to spend $2000.

After a bit of unsuccessful research of North American luthiers, I knew that Bruce Wei in Vietnam did custom, so I contacted him. He was the only one who immediately sent me a basic drawing of what he would build, for a cost of $750 shipped. I went for it. It came out beautifully, but the bone string holder on the tailpiece cracked and I just received the replacement (all metal), so now I'll be able to play and I'm anticipating it opening up, it's a bit dull (hopefully the top is not too thick to allow that).

Then I got caught up and had him make me a glossy black mandolele (being finished) and a u-bass (being shipped).

Rakelele
10-21-2014, 09:18 PM
To my wife and me, it was kind of a journey: From a cheap piece in a local store to a laminated Kala, then an all solid Pono, then we got hooked on the K-Brands, trying one of each, and finally we wanted one from a renowned luthier. We love them all pretty equally, exactly for their differences in looks and sound and feel. They are all unique and special to us, and exploring their strengths and differences is part of the fun to us.

Hammond
10-22-2014, 12:12 AM
This is my custom uke story.

My custom uke was a birthday gift to myself few months ago.

The reason I bought this custom uke, is that a single uke has all features I desire. Its kind of like finding the right partner. Although I didn't order those features, I was buying a finished product. This was still an amazing coincidence, that I would order the exact same features. It become my life-time ukulele now, I bring it to everywhere.

Mim
10-22-2014, 02:53 AM
Mine is a Gary Gill and I just got it about a month ago! And I finally took the plunge after 4 1/2 years!

I am surrounded by ukuleles at all times and I love them all for different reasons, and I have had a few that I have been sad about saying goodbye to them wishing I could keep them, but financial reason have kept me back for some time. I just kept waiting until the builder, the sound, and the time felt right. And I love the Breedlove builds and had picked out some woods for a custom line. So I thought one of the Sinker Redwood/ Ebony builds had my name on it. But alas, their ukulele program is on hold, therefore my woods are bring re-shelved.

So I continued gigging with my first ukulele, a Kala Spruce Spalted Maple. Until the right one came around.

Then I got my first 2 Gary Gill ukuleles in my shop and fell in love with the sound. I love a full, rich, big sounding ukulele personally. So I asked for his next round of builds to make one for me. I gave him very little to go on other than I liked contrast and wanted something different. And I said I liked the dark body and light fretboard and that if he wanted to play around with a more complicated rosette I would love something that stood out. Then I just trusted it would be awesome! So I guess that was when I decided to get a custom, when I found the sound and feel that I knew I would love forever with a builder who I felt like was my style and also "got" my style. I love this uke so much and take it everywhere with me! And it is "different" and I am a quirky gal, so the different look really fits! Wanna see? Even if you don't I will show you cause I love showing it off! Hehe! (Sorry the pics are so big, I don't know how to make them smaller)

http://i1190.photobucket.com/albums/z446/MimsUkes/GG5.jpg

It looks good on stage too!

http://i1190.photobucket.com/albums/z446/MimsUkes/GG4.jpg

Jon Moody
10-22-2014, 03:01 AM
As a professional musician (meaning, someone that makes a substantial amount of their yearly income from gigging), I know that most of the instruments off the shelf won't live up to my demands, so after buying a Riptide Tenor ukulele in March of 2011 and playing out with it for a couple of months (and realizing that I was going to stick with playing the mighty uke), I immediately decided to start looking for a custom builder for an instrument. After looking at many websites and contacting a couple of builders, I settled upon Jerry at Boat Paddle. His design aesthetic and correspondence sealed the deal for me.

Best uke I've played.

Bao
10-22-2014, 04:45 AM
Within six months of playing a uke, I went for a custom. At the time the most money I spent was for a Kala cedar top tenor cutaway, $360 (I traded in 3 lesser ukes, so it actually cost $190). Then I saw Daniel's (nongdam) Selmer Maccaferri gypsy jazz style uke, which I always admired as a guitar, but wasn't ready to spend $2000.

After a bit of unsuccessful research of North American luthiers, I knew that Bruce Wei in Vietnam did custom, so I contacted him. He was the only one who immediately sent me a basic drawing of what he would build, for a cost of $750 shipped. I went for it. It came out beautifully, but the bone string holder on the tailpiece cracked and I just received the replacement (all metal), so now I'll be able to play and I'm anticipating it opening up, it's a bit dull (hopefully the top is not too thick to allow that).

Then I got caught up and had him make me a glossy black mandolele (being finished) and a u-bass (being shipped).

After performing for the first few times with an ukulele, that was when I knew I wasn't going to give it up. Upon seeing the hefty (only in my case) price tags on most custom ukes, I opted for the (as some would say) riskier option of BruceWeiArt customs as well. After seeing Kohanmike's post about his Gypsy Jazz uke, it sold me and I have since been waiting for it to finish.

On a side note, tell us how it goes when you receive the ukes! Mine is almost done as well.

RichM
10-22-2014, 04:54 AM
I'm a committed musician, so I'm not afraid to spend a couple bucks on a quality instrument. I've never really felt the need for a custom build, as I feel luthiers understand their craft far better than I do, and tend to come up with cleverer ideas for designs than I could anyway. However, a couple years back I absolutely fell in love with the Martin 3K design. However, most 3Ks were/are sopranos, and that's not my preferred size. A very small number of concert 3Ks were made, but I've never seen one and I imagine if I found one, it would go at an incredible price premium. Shortly after that, forum member MattyDee announced his custom from Dave Talsma, which I though was beautiful and sounded wonderful. I investigated Talsma, and discovered that he has made a lot of historical replicas at very high quality, including concert-sized 3Ks and 3Ms. I spoke with him about what I wanted and decided he was the right guy, and flash forward about one year, and I have a gorgeous 3K concert that is exactly what I wanted!

NewKid
12-04-2014, 03:42 AM
I decided to buy custom so I could know who built my ukulele and also select the wood combination and appointments of my choice. It was also important to me to support good people pursuing their dream and their craft because the instrument has their spirit in it. This forum highly influenced all my custom choices as I was able to learn about so many fine builders.

I had a particularly wonderful experience visiting Jerry Hoffman several times at his New Haven, MO shop for Boat Paddle ukuleles. This was a 200-mile drive for me each way from Overland Park, KS. I was interested in Jerry's new D-style and M-style tenors. But on my first visit, Jerry let me play his wife Janelle's ML-tenor and I fell in love with it. I commissioned one in highly figured golden Beeswing Mahogany and it turned out even better than I expected.

Laouik
12-04-2014, 03:54 AM
My first uke was a Mahalo that was made of wonderful glue with a hint of laminate wood. I think the case with which it came was worth more than the instrument. If not, it must have been close. After a few months, I was still playing it daily and treated myself by upgrading to a Kiwaya KTS-4. Loved that little uke so much! But lingering finger pain in my left hand compelled me to move up to a tenor. I was looking at the "K" brands. What I'd saved up, plus planning to sell the Kiwaya, made it attainable. I was really interested in the Kanile'a range of tenors. But not having experienced many ukes, I did research and found a local luthier making ukuleles.

When I got my first LFdM years ago, it was the same price as a mid-range Kanile'a tenor (somewhere between a K-2 and a K-3). The prices have gone up since (though to be clear, after I did a small calculation he initially was being very unfair to himself given that he spends over 100 hours on each instrument, when I factored in likely cost of materials it was ridiculous how inexpensive he was offering them) but I didn't blink when I decided to get a second tenor almost a year ago so that I could more easily enjoy high-g and low-g playing. I'll be picking up (http://lfdmguitars.ca/december-2-2014-another-three-muskateers) my second LFdM in a couple of weeks.

So to me, it was because it was affordable compared to factory alternatives, it was local, I was able to meet the person, see an example, and thereby feel more comfortable about the process and price. Also it was from a wonderful person.

stevepetergal
12-04-2014, 04:10 AM
I must give two answers.

I decided to buy a custom when I didn't quite realize I had more money for the project than I did brains (I hadn't been playing a year, yet). I got something I thought would be my "be all-end all". It was a tenor with a radiused fret-board, neither of which could I ever get used to playing. After a year or so, I had to sell it.

I decided to buy another custom about five years later. By that time, I was playing the kind of music I loved, and playing pretty well. I knew precisely what would make me happy.

Lesson learned, here. I hope all you new ukulele players will pay attention. Most of those custom instruments will not pay off at re-sale. Wait until you know.

Other lesson: You can make pretty good music (and even get darned-good sound) with your first instrument. It takes practice. Lots of practice, but that's what does it, not just an expensive instrument.

drmosser
12-04-2014, 04:19 AM
I had been playing about 6 months when I decided I wanted a custom ukulele with the woods of my choosing. I looked around and decided to take a chance on essentially unknown (in the ukulele world) luthiers. The result was two beautiful looking instruments which didn't quite hit the mark on sound quality. I ended up having additional work with a local luthier to hopefully improve sound and playability on these two. They still don't measure up to higher end commercially made ukes that I have acquired since. Let that be a cautionary tale about choosing a custom ukulele builder very carefully. Custom ukuleles command a premium because of the skill and reputation of the builder/luthier.

I've had better luck with what I would call "spec" ukes which are hand built by reputable, fairly well known, ukulele builders with their selection of wood and appointments. Some of those hand builders also make custom ukuleles, too. In choosing a "spec" uke from a reputable builder, I feel like I am getting the same quality and skill that goes into their custom ukuleles at a good price. Of course, it always helps if you can actually play an example of a builder's product before making the investment. Going down this path, I won't likely find ukes with all of the bling and wildly figured woods that I can imagine. However, it's more about the sound and playing quality of a ukulele for me at this point in my playing skill curve ( 1.75 years).

wayfarer75
12-04-2014, 05:47 AM
I've had better luck with what I would call "spec" ukes which are hand built by reputable, fairly well known, ukulele builders with their selection of wood and appointments. Some of those hand builders also make custom ukuleles, too. In choosing a "spec" uke from a reputable builder, I feel like I am getting the same quality and skill that goes into their custom ukuleles at a good price. Of course, it always helps if you can actually play an example of a builder's product before making the investment. Going down this path, I won't likely find ukes with all of the bling and wildly figured woods that I can imagine. However, it's more about the sound and playing quality of a ukulele for me at this point in my playing skill curve ( 1.75 years).

I like the idea of buying a spec uke too. MP, DaSilva, Boat Paddle, Compass Rose, Barron River and many more luthiers have great ukes for sale on their websites/in retail shops, some more often than others. There could be sound samples, pics, the whole enchilada, so I'm not going in completely blind. I think I would only go custom if I wanted something very specific that you can't find on regular production and spec ukes. I'm not into a whole lot of inlay and all that either.

Paul December
12-04-2014, 06:31 AM
I must give two answers.

I decided to buy a custom when I didn't quite realize I had more money for the project than I did brains (I hadn't been playing a year, yet). I got something I thought would be my "be all-end all". It was a tenor with a radiused fret-board, neither of which could I ever get used to playing. After a year or so, I had to sell it.

I decided to buy another custom about five years later. By that time, I was playing the kind of music I loved, and playing pretty well. I knew precisely what would make me happy.

Lesson learned, here. I hope all you new ukulele players will pay attention. Most of those custom instruments will not pay off at re-sale. Wait until you know.

Other lesson: You can make pretty good music (and even get darned-good sound) with your first instrument. It takes practice. Lots of practice, but that's what does it, not just an expensive instrument.

:eek: A thread about the other-side-of-the-coin "Custom Blunders" would be interesting. Steve's post reminds me that the problem isn't always just the instrument. It can be, but it can also be the player or a combination of both. Either way, potentially a costly mistake.

janeray1940
12-04-2014, 08:41 AM
Lesson learned, here. I hope all you new ukulele players will pay attention. Most of those custom instruments will not pay off at re-sale. Wait until you know.



This is the best advice ever. If resale factors into the buying decision, my experience is if the custom is not made by the "hot" luthier of the moment, chances are you'll lose a big percentage of the purchase price... unlike more known quantities like K brands, which I've never lost money on. YMMV.

janeray1940
12-04-2014, 08:43 AM
:eek: A thread about the other-side-of-the-coin "Custom Blunders" would be interesting. Steve's post reminds me that the problem isn't always just the instrument. It can be, but it can also be the player or a combination of both. Either way, potentially a costly mistake.

That would be an interesting thread, and one I've considered starting on a couple of occasions - but I've always feared that by doing so, I'd unintentionally portray the luthier in a bad light. My one custom experience was a blunder on MY part and not the luthier's - although I don't really feel like it was much of a blunder since it was a really good lesson in learning what I want (or don't want) in a uke.

RichM
12-04-2014, 09:21 AM
That would be an interesting thread, and one I've considered starting on a couple of occasions - but I've always feared that by doing so, I'd unintentionally portray the luthier in a bad light. My one custom experience was a blunder on MY part and not the luthier's - although I don't really feel like it was much of a blunder since it was a really good lesson in learning what I want (or don't want) in a uke.

I think that's a really good observation. One of the biggest challenges in buying a custom is you don't get to try it until it's built-- so you need to make sure that you are in good sync with the luthier. This would be my list of Custom Blunders, from the buyer's side. Here's how to have a disappointing experience ordering a custom instrument:

1. Work with a new or unproven luthier without understanding the risks. I'm not saying you shouldn't-- I've had wonderful experiences buying from up-and-coming builders, and sometimes gotten real bargains. But working with a new builder means he may make mistakes, misjudge his abilities, or deliver a product that isn't visually perfect, among others. If you understand these risks, you can have a great experience.

2. Don't communicate with your builder. Luthiers, like most professions, cannot read minds. Be clear with your luthier what your expectations are and gain agreement before he starts the build.

3. Micromanage your luthier. You hired him for a reason; let him do what he does. Needing to weigh in on every tiny decision will probably make you both crazy.

4. Expect an independent luthier to be like Amazon. Most custom builder are one-person shops. That means when they get sick, they don't work. Or need to look after sick kids, or any of the thousand things all of us do. Your uke probably will get delayed at some point. Delayed a few weeks? Suck it up and accept that it's part of the deal. Delayed a few months? Okay, now you can start complaining.

5. Call your luthier every day for a status update. Most builders are pretty good about providing updates, but whenever your luthier is talking to you or sending you an email, he's not building your uke.

6. Ask your luthier for features that you know you're gonna regret later. Once it's built, it's built (for the most part), so that "wouldn't it be cool" idea will be with you a long time.

7. Don't trust your luthier's perspective. Especially with more experienced builders, their opinions are usually backed up with real-life examples. So while you're not obligated to listen to their opinions, you probably should. If you and your luthier can't reach an agreement, it's reasonable to consider someone else.

8. Expect your custom uke to make you a better player. It won't. It may make you want to play more. I think a lot of people spend gobs of money on custom instruments, expecting them to sing like the angels when they are done. They're still ukes :).

9. Expect to sell your custom uke at profit. While this does happen sometimes (usually when popular builders have long waitlists), most of the time, your custom uke will depreciate more than a standard build, depending on how personal it is to you. Buy it to play it and love it, because it's probably not a great investment.

10. Don't really understand what you want, and then blame the luthier when you don't like what you got. There are tons of great production ukes out there. When you choose to work with a custom builder, you should have clear understanding of why you want/need a custom, and be sure that the builder you have selected can provide it (usually by reviewing his previous work, and talking with other customers, if possible). Otherwise, your disappointment may well be your fault, not his.

Steveperrywriter
12-04-2014, 09:44 AM
My experience with quality has been that I am happier in the long run paying for it. It doesn't have to be the most expensive, but I try to get the best I can afford, because I'd rather I was the limiting factor and not whatever it is I am buying. With ukes, like guitars, the first item of business is: How does it sound?

After that, how does it play and look?

My first custom-built ukes were made for somebody else: One is used, one was built and the sale fell through. Both are outstanding instruments. The third one was made for me, and is likewise outstanding. There is one more in the pipeline, and is also a commissioned build.

The first I got to play at a show, nothing about it I didn't like. The second was by the guy who built my classical guitar, and I knew his work. He just happened to have it on-hand when I asked about ukes, and I jumped on it.

I heard sound samples and saw videos of the third and fourth makers, and my assumption was, if the luthiers could build those instruments, which sounded terrific, then they could probably build more instruments that would be of like quality. I also like their attitudes and philosophies, and got to know them by reading their posts here, along with other posts about their work.

I was lucky, in that I had some guitars I got when I had more disposable income, and I sold one of them. It was a quality instrument, and it sold for more than I paid originally. This money has allowed me to get some high-end ukes, good guitars generally running way more than good ukuleles.

If you can afford something and you want it, then why not? I have no problem with people who have less or more money going for what they go for. Pretty much every time I open one of my uke cases and look at the instrument inside? it makes me smile. How cool is that?

pluck
12-04-2014, 10:05 AM
Um, what's a "k" uke? I'm new around here.

RichM
12-04-2014, 10:07 AM
Um, what's a "k" uke? I'm new around here.

Four popular Hawaiian brands are typically referred to as the "K-brands": KoAloha, Kamaka, Ko'olau, and Kanilea.

pluck
12-04-2014, 10:12 AM
Thank you!

Dan Uke
12-04-2014, 01:04 PM
A couple of other factors that I also consider is

1) Alternatives at certain price points. For instance, if I'm buying a custom uke at $500, there aren't many alternatives for custom ukes. At $3,000, there are many luthiers so do some research.
2) Finish - A uke made with truoil doesn't take as much time as let's say nitro so I expect to pay less. Also, durability is a big issue for me...I don't want to apply truoil of French Polish later. Personally, I would pay extra to have nitro finish for all customs.

homerB
12-04-2014, 06:00 PM
I have always found that a quality anything tends to be more fun and hold its value better than an instrument of lesser integrity. Many years ago, I paid $500 for a Martin D-18 I could not afford. It has given me untold hours of entertainment. And it is now worth many times its original cost. AND, it brings a smile to my face every time I hear its amazing sound. While my Martin is not an artisan model, I think you will enjoy your artisan model even more.

Hippie Dribble
12-04-2014, 06:10 PM
At what point did you decide a custom uke was for you? Was it after owning a "K" uke? Was it your first uke?? Also, how did you choose your luthier when there many amazing ones to choose from?

Currently I don't own a "K" uke or a custom uke (best uke i own is a pono pro classic). I've tried many "K" ukes at the local shop and I would love to own one, but I also see myself wanting a custom uke more and more. Hoping some of your comments will help me decide my next purchase :)

I decided to commission a custom ukulele when I realised I had fallen in love with the instrument, about two years after first picking one up. As soon as I knew I'd be playing them for life it just made sense to have something personal made.

I chose Duane Heilman of Black Bear Ukuleles after watching a documentary about ukulele builders past and present entitled 'The Jumping Flea'. Something about the way he spoke and the passion and creative artistry of the man drew me to him. Eight years on I own three ukes and two are custom Black Bears(pics below). I loved his work then and still do to this day.

www.blackbearukuleles.net

7373173730

DownUpDave
12-05-2014, 02:19 AM
You can order your custom uke when ever you want to. If you are thinking about it and can afford the outlay, you are not getting any younger. Maybe it wont turn out the way you expect or you will get a pleasant or unpleasant surprise, but why wait if you don't need to?

I love this advice. Golf is another good example of this. You see a lot of people with very expensive high end equipment that are not very good golfers. That nice equipment helps to heighten their enjoyment of a hobby they have a passion for. That is what a hobby is all about.........enjoying one's self.

Oh damn, just talked myself into ordering another custom :cheers:

fretie
12-05-2014, 05:12 AM
I just recently... well, yesterday, hehehe...place an order for a custom uke. No, I'm not a great player. Yes, I like good sound along with good looks in a uke.
I play daily and I have owned many stock ukes. My two K ukes stayed, the others I have sold.
I went custom for the following reasons:

1. The luthier is a talented local guy that is at the beginning of his career. I take a chance with his mere 5 years of experience as a builder but think it's worth it to support an up and coming luthier.

2. I can't get the wood/detail combo that I want in a stock uke.

3. I've seen and heard this builder's ukes many times at local meetups and have been constantly tempted by their sound and look.

4. I'm a risk taker.

Rllink
12-05-2014, 06:03 AM
I don't own a custom uke, so I can not answer the question directly, but I think that I would buy a custom, when I needed a custom to do what I want to do, or if I wanted a piece of art work, and I do not say that with sarcasm, either is a good reason. I would not buy a custom with resale value in mind, because I would never buy a ukulele planning to sell it before I even got it. It just seems to me that buying a uke with selling it in mind, is speculating in uke futures, and I've lost enough speculating in corn futures to know that the commodities market is volatile.

Garydavkra
12-05-2014, 06:06 AM
I bought a custom uke last year after playing for a couple of years. I never thought of a custom uke until I met a luthier that belongs to the ukulele group I belong to. The great thing about it was that he was able to build it from a mahogany coffee table that my brother had built in junior high wood shop. I had it sitting in the shed for years and my brother said he didn't want it back. So, I showed it to the luthier and he said, "this is the good stuff." Anyway, it gets played a lot since it has that certain kind of MOJO that my manufactured ukes don't seem to have although they are great too. Since there was enough wood left over, I'm on his list for a baratone. The one I had built was a tenor.

Ukulelerick9255
12-07-2014, 05:12 AM
I decided when I started reading about different tone woods and went on you tube and heard some customs...I ultimately decided on African blackwood and sinker redwood for my uke(tenor) it looks stunning and it sounds very harp like.

philpot
12-07-2014, 05:58 AM
I don't think there's any particular time you're "ready" for a custom. It depends on what you can afford and how much you love your instruments. I've wanted to have a custom uke for a long time, and I've made plans multiple times. I waited to actually put my name on a wait list until it could seem justifiable financially and skill-wise. As of last week, I've begun the long wait for my Mya Moe!

coolkayaker1
12-07-2014, 06:04 AM
Typical uke progression:

cheapie > production mid-range > production high-end > custom > another custom > production high-end

(only the last being a keeper)

csereduke
12-07-2014, 07:42 AM
Hi Andu,
There is nothing magical about a custom ukulele. Sometimes they are better than "off the shelf " ukuleles and sometimes they are not. I decided to buy custom when I found that the configuration I needed was not available from stock instruments. You may never get to this point and be very happy with any of the various manufacturers available. My suggestion is to find a group of players and try out as many different models as you can. There is no substitute for trying the instrument yourself.

stevepetergal
12-08-2014, 03:23 AM
If you have to ask if you're ready, you aren't. WAIT.

DownUpDave
12-08-2014, 03:34 AM
I think there is sometimes confusion about "custom" vs factory made. When I think of custom I think of custom builder, ie LfdM, Kinnard, Mya Moe, Covered Bridge etc. etc. You can get a very standard spec uke from these people and most do, it gives you the flexablitiy to choose your wood type and that satisfies most people. Or you choose to go CUSTOM will all kinds of different specs and features to suite your tastes and needs.

TheCraftedCow
12-08-2014, 08:31 AM
If you are a beginning player I do not suggest ordering a custom until you have been playing at least at a year so that you know what you like in an ukulele. Customs cost a lot of $ especially if you get into the larger sizes. Starting with a Pono is a good choice as it is a reasonably priced well made uke. I don't know what part of California you live in but it would be a good idea to talk/visit some local ukulele makers. John Kinnard is a great builder he is in the So. Cal area. Tony Graziano, Da Silva and Pohaku are in the No. Cal area. To that list you can add Toni Maloon )Anakaneki(?) Mike Pereira (MP) Mark Schoenberg (Ukiyo)

Rllink
12-08-2014, 09:16 AM
I don't have the urge to have a custom uke built for me, right now anyway, but I do sometimes think that it would be fun to build my own.

70sSanO
12-10-2014, 04:47 AM
I think there is sometimes confusion about "custom" vs factory made. When I think of custom I think of custom builder, ie LfdM, Kinnard, Mya Moe, Covered Bridge etc. etc. You can get a very standard spec uke from these people and most do, it gives you the flexablitiy to choose your wood type and that satisfies most people. Or you choose to go CUSTOM will all kinds of different specs and features to suite your tastes and needs.

There is a difference in my mind between a true custom uke and one that is built by luthier who builds in a non-production factory uke. So my ukes are non-factory ukes but they are not customs.

I have come close to going custom, and I will one day try to get a build that takes the best attributes of my 2 tenors. I have learned that you really need to play an instrument to discover exactly what plays the best for you. For example, what scale length? I don't mean concert, tenor, but 17", 18"? Is that even important? at $1000? ...at $5000? The type of neck do you prefer? ...wider, thinner, profile, flat, radius?

In my mind there is a big difference between a $1000 and $5000 custom in terms of knowing exactly what you want and what you can expect.

And unfortunately what you want today, may not be what you want tomorrow.

This is where a small boutique, if you will, builder can meet your needs for a semi/spec'd uke that is not found on every corner and still looks and plays well.

John

Recstar24
12-14-2014, 04:36 AM
Though, I am new to the ukulele, as a trained classical musician (violin and singer) spending money on a nice instrument isn't foreign to me, and at least in the violin world it's pretty standard. I started off with a lanikai loaner from my local music shop, then upgraded to a mainland. While very sweet and great value, there are certain intonation and resonant quirks that I am very sensitive too as a trained musician, which I feel are best served through a custom build. Coming from an audiophile background, I've spent thousands of dollars chasing that elusive perfect audio system, only to finally land on my current most longest lasting rig, all made personally for me by custom/DIY builders to my specifications - amp, preamp, speakers, and DAC. I figured rather than chase that perfect uke, doesn't hurt to just have built for me what I want, and enjoy my time playing the thing, as I'm not looking to resell.

I started looking into different woods and builds, listening to examples, and there is something about the Pacific Northwest woods - myrtle, port orford cedar for example - that I am very attracted too. I've also noticed how many quality luthiers are in that area, which I don't think is a coincidence. I'm currently on the waiting list for a mya moe which will take 2 years, but heck no I'm going to wait that long. I've got a covered bridge due in January, myrtle and port orford cedar, which I'm very excited about, and really can't find elsewhere (ohana has a model but the styling leaves a lot to be desired). My research into that neck of the woods also brought me to les stansell, a flamenco guitar specialist who uses that design to make tenor sized ukuleles built to the Spanish flamenco design with Pacific Northwest woods - he probably has the nicest selection of myrtle and port orford cedar around, but my build through him will be black walnut with myrtle fretboard, binding, and bridge.

Communication was key, and both were super responsive. Price and value was also important, I feel I'm getting a lot for the money. Reputation is another key factor, les stansell moreso in the guitar world.

74090
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The figure of black walnut on the stansell is insane - I would recommend checking his website at http://www.stansellguitars.com. Terry at CB was excellent at sending me pics, updating through Facebook, and taking the time to have some pretty long conversations both email and phone. I am really impressed at the tightness of grain terry was able to find on my POC top.